One of the top reasons drivers give for leaving their last employer is that they felt unappreciated. Given drivers’ importance to businesses, the growing turnover rate, and the average cost of recruiting new and less-experienced drivers (estimated at $12,000 per new hire), it is worth investing time and effort to retain your current drivers.
Expressing your appreciation for their hard work doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. Here are six easy and free ways to increase driver retention:
1. Acknowledge drivers’ importance to the company
Each driver who successfully completes a delivery safely and on schedule deserves to be recognized. Who doesn’t thrive on positive feedback? In person, that feedback may be a few words of acknowledgment. If the driver is on the road, consider leveraging technology to do the work for you. Send an automatic text message or email to a driver upon completing their deliveries. Using information provided by vehicle telematics, messages could highlight positive attributes of the driver’s journey, such as maintaining speed below the threshold and the absence of sudden braking. Consider highlighting positive events and offering a certificate of achievement right from your event library or implementing a recognition program for achieving certain milestones tied to your company’s strategic objectives. This will also let drivers know that while data is being collected, positive findings are also being noticed.
2. Facilitate personal connections
Much of each driver’s day is spent in the solitary confines of his or her cab. Isolation causes not only depression but also physical health risks. Encourage drivers to phone home when not driving to maintain healthy relationships and reduce the dissatisfaction of spending so much time away from their families. Some organizations also maintain an internal social network to keep far-flung workers connected and in touch with colleagues. SmartCare Equipment Solutions, for example, uses Jostle to allow their technicians to stay in touch, celebrate team wins, give individual shout-outs, share updates on a virtual bulletin board, and build a cohesive community culture.
3. Include drivers in company communications.
Be sure to let drivers know how they contribute to the company’s success and that they are valued team members, even if they aren’t physically in the office. One easy way of communicating this is by including them in the same company communications as every other employee. If your internal newsletter includes personal news (a new baby or work anniversary), make a special effort to ask drivers to contribute the same types of information. That will give them a sense of belonging and commitment to the company. The newsletter could also highlight the total miles driven by an individual driver and other related milestones to share their accomplishments within the employee population.
4. Solicit and encourage feedback
Your drivers are “road ambassadors” for your company or brands. They have information not available to anyone else, such as suggestions for how delivery items could be packed to facilitate quicker unloading at a customer site. Drivers are also the first to know if a customer is unhappy. By providing the company with an early alert of dissatisfaction, drivers position the company to be proactive in addressing issues before they become problems or canceled contracts. When you make an effort to ask drivers for feedback about their experiences, you will receive valuable and actionable information. And listening to what drivers have to say will also help them feel appreciated.
5. Integrate positive feedback during coaching sessions
Positive reinforcement can be a valuable tool for promoting safe driving habits and a strong safety culture that is more likely to retain drivers for the long haul. You can create a positive feedback loop in several ways. First, in addition to pointing out things that can be improved in a coaching session, you also can include one or two positive behaviors, whether it’s proper hand placement on the wheel or keeping a safe distance. Second, bring drivers in for coaching sessions to simply acknowledge when they have done something exceptional, such as using defensive driving techniques to avoid a collision or following all proper procedures perfectly to perform a task. If the behavior has been captured by a video telematics system, consider asking the driver if it’s okay to show the video clip to others in the company.
6. Value drivers even outside of work
One of the challenges of living on the road is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Consider adopting a driver health initiative to help them combat the side effects of sitting for long hours. It can be as easy as educating them about nutrient-rich foods – such as almonds and whole fruits – that are healthy and provide energy. Or you could give drivers a handout with quick and easy stretches and exercises that don’t require special equipment and can be done in the cab, at a rest stop, or during refueling. Providing this information shows concern for all aspects of a driver’s life beyond his or her immediate value to the company. For more ideas, take a look at these effective driver health programs from Ryder System Inc. and Hirschbach Motor Lines.
At the end of the day, the best retention tools are often the least expensive ones: using different ways of expressing sincere appreciation for a difficult job well done.